The Friday night fish fry, for those that don’t know, is a popular Midwestern tradition. Why fish and why on Friday? Allow me to explain. You see, this act of casual dining stems from Roman Catholics in the area. Catholics were to avoid eating meat on Fridays. So, since fish isn’t really a meat, and is tasty when you batter it up and send it through a deep fryer, it was a way for restaurants to attract God fearing patrons during Lent, after the pope declared Lent the only time of Friday meat abstinence.
Of course, the Friday fish fry transcends Lent in America’s Dairyland. Wisconsin restaurant owners have been doing this since the twenties and thirties. And there’s many neighborhood eateries and supper clubs that still do. So, I found a place with local tavern appeal, garnished with some rustic maritime kitsch, that sported a reputation for a damn good fish fry. Can I say damn good? After all I just explained, it seems a sacrilegious oxymoron.
This is my take on the River Street Pier on Green Bay’s Velp Avenue
We’re driving down a road that lacks glamour, Velp Avenue. Yet, just beyond US-41 the River Street Pier awaits. I’ve never been there, but it sounds interesting.
When we arrive, I’m kind of tickled. This place reminds me of a childhood haunt. The building oozes old waterfront tavern sentiments, specifically with rural Wisconsin charm in mind. And when you’re talking fish fries, you can’t possibly be more on point with a facade such as this. Greeting me are fish nets on the siding, old dock posts, a deco porthole and, to top it off right, a neon beer sign in the shape of a fish. This place is perfect!
When we enter the small eatery, it’s packed. Despite the busy setting, we’re greeted by a young lady Immediately. I usually say ‘almost immediately’ when describing speedy service, but that would be down playing her promptness. She was addressing us before I could survey the intimate dining room.
Had she left me to my own devices, I would have discovered that there wasn’t an empty seat inside this place. Instead, she offers a chance to dine outdoors. It’s in the low seventies, absolutely comfortable weather, so I shrug and say, “Sure, why not?”
When she directs us to our table, It’s obvious outdoor dining was the owner’s afterthought, yet the setting is crudely charming. We’re simply seated on the cusp of the establishment’s paved parking lot and the lulling Duck Creek’s grassy banks.
As we wait and relax, watching the small waterway meander, I realize that we’re situated at a river fork. The Beaver Dam River is to my right and Duck Creek sits to my left. They are minor tributaries or outlets of Green Bay. The scene is ultimately homey and relaxing.
When our waitress arrives, she recites the Beer list. I think in total, our young server listed two craft brews. Our choices are an amber and a black ale from the same Michigan brewery. I’m disappointed, because beer is such an integral part of a fish fry. But I believe a good portion of their cliental are domestic beer drinkers. And though this amber isn’t particularly good, it’s sufficive on an occasion like tonight.
Friday night’s menu presents the options of cod, bluegill, walleye or perch. The prices are rather competitive, a bit on the high side, and the perch plate’s costs are not present due to market fluctuation.
I should mention, if you don’t care for fish, there are plenty of burger and sandwich options to choose. Of course, as this place’s decor has seafood written all over it, we choose seafood Wisconsin style-deep fried and flaky, with a bowl of tarter sauce on the side.
Along with the fish, come other Friday night staples. Coleslaw, your choice of potato and buttered Rye bread complete the fish platter. Heidi chooses walleye and I perch, which are our favorites.
When the plates arrive and we dig in, I’m loving every savory bite. This place does the Wisconsin fish fry absolutely perfect-phenomenal. Yet, the price does somewhat reflect high quality. It’s classic Wisconsin eats that are just a tad on the high side. At first, I had thought the bill was forty bucks which isn’t bad. But low and behold, the actual sum of our bill was fifty three dollars. That’s a bit steep!
In closing, the River Street Pier is the quintessential setting for a Wisconsin dining tradition; ‘the Friday night fish fry’. With great service, a fun setting and scrumptious food, your belly and spirits will delight in the flavors and vibe- although the pocket book might show a visible dent.